About 50 people including the Minnesota Democratic Party’s Civic Engagement Director and the Liberian Consul General in Minnesota, crowded the City of Falcon Heights Council Chambers on Wednesday for the swearing-in ceremony of Yakasah Wehyee, the city’s first Liberian born Council member. The University of Minnesota’s St. Paul Campus and the sprawling Minnesota State Fair are located inside Falcon Heights.
Yakasah Wehyee was the top vote getter in a race to fill two open seats in the council last November that attracted three candidates. He garnered 44.4% of the vote to win one of the two seats. Voters also chose Kay Thomas who is legally blind to take the other seat. She was sworn in alongside Wehyee on Wednesday but the small crowd that was present was there for Wehyee who got the most applause and the customary African ululation to signal a joyous occasion.
In Falcon Heights’ nearly 71-year history, Yakasah Wehyee is the first African immigrant to be elected to its Council. The 28-year-old is a PhD student at the University of Minnesota.
Falcon Heights Mayor Randy Gustafson swore in Yakasah Wehyee in front of about 50 people that packed the small Council chambers, including the DFL Civic Engagement Director Ian Oundo and Jackson K. George, Jr., the Honorary Consul General for Liberia in Minnesota. Wehyee’s wife, Esha, and mother Vicky were also present.
“I am so proud of all my children,” said Vicky Wehyee, mother to the new councilman. She added that she was not surprised when he said he will run for City Council as he was “always acting mature for his age.” His wife Esha said he had contemplated waiting to run after he completes his PhD “but I told him to just do it now.”
The DFL’s Oundo told Mshale after Wehyee’s swearing in that the diversity the African immigrants are bringing to the elective posts they have recently assumed is a good thing for Minnesota.
“We continue to work hard at the DFL to ensure that all communities have elected officials that are representative of those who live there,” said Oundo.
Born and raised in Kenya's coastal city of Mombasa, Tom is the Founder, President and Publisher of Mshale. As the founder, he did a lot of the reporting during the humble beginnings of the newspaper. While he still does the occasional reporting, he now concentrates on the publishing side of the news operation. Tom was also the original host of Talking Drum, the signature current affairs show on the African Broadcasting Network (ABN-America), which was available nationwide in the United States via the Dishnetwork satellite service. On the show, he interviewed Nobel laureates such as 2004 Nobel Peace prize winner, Professor Wangari Maathai, the first woman from Africa to win the peace prize and heads of states such as the president of The Gambia, Yahya Jammeh at State House, Banjul. Tom has served and chaired various boards including Global Minnesota (formerly Minnesota International Center), the sixth largest World Affairs Council in the United States. He has previously served as President of the Board of Directors of Books for Africa, the largest shipper of donated books to Africa. He also serves on the boards of New Vision Foundation and the Minnesota Multicultural Media Consortium.
Tom also served two terms on the board of the United Nations Association.
He retired from running full marathons after turning 50 and now only focuses on half marathons.